Upper Peninsula Michigan Camping Roadtrip

FALL! My favorite time of year! There is something so magical and cozy about the leaves changing and chilled air! We take a week off every fall to do a road trip to enjoy the fall colors. To be honest, we usually miss the colors because you just never know when they are going to change, but this year, by the grace of God, we hit them perfectly! We just opened up our new wedding venue and spent all summer busting our booties to get that thing up and running, so the thought of a camping trip to escape the noise sounded like the best idea in the world. We were so eager to go and relax! To be honest, we had no idea where we we’re going even a few days before we left! All we knew, was that it was blocked off in our calendar and we were road tripping somewhere!! We had it narrowed down to the Upper Peninsula (UP), Maine, Great Smokies, or Colorado. haha… soooo basically half of the US was on our radar. Tony kept an eye on the reports for where the leaves were changing the most and where they were at their peak. When we saw that the UP was going to be hitting it’s peak during our trip, we decided that was it! Plus, it was the closest of all of the options, so we knew it would be a nice, easy drive for us. We picked out a few spots along the way that we wanted to see, and slowly made our way from the Twin Cities, MN to our final destination: Mackinac Island, MI!

Since we didn’t have a plan going into it, we literally just drove and found campgrounds along the way! We left on October 16th, and to our surprise, all of the campgrounds that we encountered along the way were pretty much empty! There was one night where we tried to get a hotel near the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore, and those were completely booked up. So if you’re planning a trip for that area and want a hotel, be sure to book sooner rather than later! We were very comfortable camping. We use our Skycamp rooftop tent from iKamper which we absolutely LOVE! It’s so fun and convenient, because it takes 2 minutes to set up. Luckily, all of the campsites we stayed at had electricity hook ups, so we just brought our heated blanket and an extension chord to keep us warm! There were also bathrooms with showers at all of the campgrounds we stayed at, which is like camping in paradise compared to some of the dispersed camping and backpacking trips we’ve done, haha!

The drive from our house in Maple Grove, MN to Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park was only 5.5 hours! We left late morning and took our time slowly making our way up there.

We arrived just around sunset, PERFECT timing! So we went straight up to the Lake of the Clouds Scenic Area for a little sunset hike to the most gorgeous fall overlook I’ve ever laid my eyes on! Once you park in the parking lot, you follow the signs that say “Lake of the Clouds Overlook” pictured below!

It was an easy walk to get to the overlook. Everything was on even ground, and a lot of it was this board walk style decking. There are some stairs, but nothing crazy.

The tree colors were unreal! That night, we camped at the Union Bay Camp Ground.

The next morning, we packed up camp and drove to Sugar Loaf Mountain Trailhead to do a nice hike to break up our drive to the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore! The drive from Union Bay Campground to Sugar Loaf Mountain was 2.5 hours. The hike was STUNNING! One of my favorite moments from this trip, for sure. The views at the top of the hill were incredible with the endless blue water of Lake Superior and the fall colors. Here is a link to the hike on All Trails for more information! The hike was only a little over 1 mile, and the best part about it: it’s dog friendly! Don’t forget your leash!

After our hike, we hopped in the the car again and drove to the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore, Specifically Miners Castle Point Overlook.

That night, we stayed at the Munising Tourist Park Campground! We got in after dark and it was pretty much empty! Here is the inside of our iKamper!

When we woke up, we were ready to do a bigger hike!

We originally wanted to come to this area of Pictured Rocks to see Grand Portal which is an iconic, amazing view of the Pictured Rocks area! But since we didn’t get a chance to do our research, we didn’t realize it was a 15 mile hike round trip to get there! Also, they do not allow dogs on the trail, so even if we wanted to, we couldn’t go! Since we were camping and didn’t have a cabin that Chevy could stay in, we couldn’t commit to a full day hike. 

So we decided to do a shorter ~ 6 mile hike to Chapel Falls and Chapel Rock instead! This took a little over 3 hours with all of the stops. Chevy was exhausted from our hikes and adventures the previous days, so he slept in our car camp we set up for him. ((He lives like a king, so don’t judge us for leaving our dog. It was 50 degrees outside and I assure you he was very comfortable on his memory foam bed with access to food, water, and windows open enough for airflow)) We would never ever ever put our dog in a hot or uncomfortable situation. That being said, if you plan on doing this hike in the *summer* with your dog, make sure you rent a cabin that you can keep them in!

I would recommend starting this hike in the morning; We got there around 12:30 and the parking lot was pretty full and filling up the street on the way there, but when we left around 4, The parking was overflowed probably a half mile down the road! I can’t imagine how full this gets during the peak summer months. The trail was mostly flat and easy. (Here is a link to the parking lot!) There are many routes that you can take from this parking lot, it is a busy hiking location! I can’t wait to go back and explore some other areas!

Our next stop was wild! This is the Log Slide Overlook! It was a short walk from the parking lot to the main lookout point. The drop off to the water is pretty steep, but a lot of people were hiking down there when we were there! There are a lot of signs telling travelers to remember that the way down is easy but the way up is really difficult because it is deceivingly steep! It looks like something you’d see somewhere on the ocean, it’s hard to believe this is in Michigan on Lake Superior!

That night, we stayed at Woodland Park Campground in Grand Marais. We got in after dark and left early the next morning, so I can’t really speak to how nice it is! The biggest thing I recall is that no one was really there and the bathrooms were kind of creepy in the dark! ;P haha! Cool area though, right on the water with access to a beach area!

Next stop, Mackinac Island!

Where we stayed: Holiday Inn SOUTH of the bridge in Mackinaw (The Holiday Inn North of the bridge in St. Ignace does not allow pets)

Mackinac island is a quaint island off of the coast of St. Ignace, MI. There are no motorized vehicles allowed on the island (with the exception of emergency vehicles) so everyone gets around by bicycles or horse and carriage taxis! While we were there, even the garbage man rides around on a horse carriage! It really is a magical island. It was a lot larger than I imagined it would be! If you plan on going, I would recommend bringing your own bike (you can take your own on the ferry), or you can easily rent them on the island. This would be the easiest way to get around, and best way to see everything rather than on foot. Right when you get off the ferry, you step into the charming downtown area where there are tons of cute boutiques, restaurants, and lots of fudge shops 😉 You can easily walk around this area without renting a bike. After you’ve spent time downtime, this is when I would rent a bike! You can take it to the iconic Grand Hotel, Arch rock, or just to cruise around and admire all of the historic architecture. Tony and I went on this whole trip very last minute, so we didn’t plan lodging accordingly with our dog Chevy, but they do have dog friendly hotels on the island, which we would recommend to get the full Mackinac experience! We only stayed for 1 afternoon, but I am eager to go back and explore the island a little more fully by staying over night and renting bikes! 

As we were leaving the next morning, we were in the middle of a storm and the wind was so strong and the waves were so high that they actually closed the bridge from Mackinaw City to St. Agnes!! This bridge was the only route for us to get home, so we actually had to wait things out for a few hours until they opened it up again! Since we had the canoe on top of our car, we were considered more ‘high risk’ so they had to escort us (along with many other vehicles with boats, trailers, semi’s, etc) across at a slow speed. It was an interesting experience!

And that’s a wrap! We absolutely loved our time in the UP and can’t wait to go back and explore some more areas when we get a chance! There are so many more places and I feel like we really only hit the tip of the iceberg with some of the main tourist areas! A perfect trip that I would highly recommend for fall!

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